Leukemia remains the most common diagnosis in pediatric oncology and, despite dramatic progress in upfront therapy, is also the most common cause of cancer-related death in children. Much of the initial improvement in outcomes for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) was due to identification of cytotoxic agents that are active against leukemia followed by the recognition that combination of these cytotoxic agents and prolonged therapy are essential for cure. Recent data demonstrating lack of progress in patients for whom standard chemotherapy fails suggests that the ability to improve outcome for these children will not be dramatically impacted through more intensive or newer cytotoxic agents. Thus, much of the recent research focus has been in the area of improving our understanding of the genetics and the biology of leukemia. Although in vitro studies remain critical, given the complexity of a living system and the increasing recognition of the contribution of leukemia extrinsic factors such as the bone marrow microenvironment, in vivo models have provided important insights. The murine systems that are used can be broadly categorized into syngeneic models in which a murine leukemia can be studied in immunologically intact hosts and xenograft models where human leukemias are studied in highly immunocompromised murine hosts. Both of these systems have limitations such that neither can be used exclusively to study all aspects of leukemia biology and therapeutics for humans. This review will describe the various ALL model systems that have been developed as well as discuss the advantages and disadvantages inherent to these systems that make each particularly suitable for specific types of studies.
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
- Murine model